“Don’t Get Raped…”

Disclaimer: Before you get upset with me and deny me future jobs, I am not saying all aspects of University are awful. I love my school. But… I am saying THIS aspect of our system is problematic and seriously needs to change.

“What were you wearing?” “Were you drinking that night?” “How much alcohol was in your system when the event took place?” As if being assaulted or harassed is just any other ordinary event.

Universities are supposed to be institutions of higher learning. They are supposed to foster an environment of academics and community… unfortunately, this is not what’s currently happening.

It is estimated that between 1in 4 and 1 in 5 individuals will be sexually assaulted during their college years. This is just not okay. When did obtaining an education turn into a massive threat for one’s safety and well-being?

I certainly do not have all the answers but I think that we have a larger issue in our society regarding power and dominance and this is displayed very clearly with regards to sexual assault and harassment on college campuses, and continuously perpetuated by universities when they lack action. Our schools are protecting the rapist. When the university lies about the number of sexual assaults and claims to have zero cases in any given year, two things can be deduced: they are either under-reporting (obviously) or… that particular university’s students are absolutely terrified to come forward — these students know all too well that in most cases, the rapist is protected and in turn, the victim (for lack of a better word) or the target is then demonized and treated as if the assault was/is their fault. Which is usually how the story goes.

I cannot even count on my fingers the amount of times I have heard the following questions asked of us: “What were you wearing?” “Were you drinking?”

It is horrifically degrading, disgusting, and devastating that the rapist is almost never questioned, while the innocent victim or survivor is asked about wardrobe… Newsflash to anyone and everyone reading this: articles of clothing do not cause rape. Going out at night does not cause rape. Drinking — anything — does not cause rape. Rapists cause rape.

Rape is a premeditated crime and as of the way things stand right now, our system sadly is advocating for rape with impunity on campus.

The Hunting Ground is a documentary that I watched for the first time last year when the Women’s Resource Center at UC Riverside screened it on campus. All students were encouraged to attend the screening and the subsequent answer and question session since this matter is such a prominent and important one. And since it doesn’t look like it’s going away. The documentary was inspired by the many stories of various survivors who were just sick and tired of the university ignoring them. They reported their assaults to the Dean of their university and would never hear back. Or even worse, they were asked “What were you wearing?” The Hunting Ground is their story, finally being told in a truthful manner which is the very least of all that they deserve.

The typical university reaction is to protect the institution, NOT the victims. Imagine if every University reported every single case — would you want to attend a school known for sexual assaults happening time and time again whether it is after concerts or at various parties? Most people do not and the schools absolutely realize this. Their reputation is more important to them than their students and that’s a heartbreaking truth.

One of the stories The Hunting Ground follows is one of a woman who was raped by a fairly well-known football star. This rapist was generating an insane amount of revenue for the University… The woman who is now a survivor decided to break her silence in the film but she had kept very quiet before because she filed a report and completed a rape kit and nothing happened. She did not receive any form of justice. She had given up completely, until she realized that she wasn’t alone.

One of the saddest aspects of all of this is the economic side — sure, the school makes money off of athletes. But what about us, the other students, who are taking out loans left and right just so we can get an education? Sorry not sorry — the price of an education should NEVER include a 20% chance of being assaulted or harmed. Never.

Michel Foucault wrote a brilliant piece about the Prison Industrial Complex in this one particular section of his book — “The Body of the Condemned.” He is describing the way in which we have transformed our methods of punishment from public execution to the Prison Industrial Complex and the reasons why. He elaborates and explains that the bigger picture is regarding the body versus the soul; when you punish a body in public you are simply repeating the crime of the convict. However, when the institution is able to hide the punishment, they do. They have taken one’s soul away with the implementation of a barricade. This hides the body and the punishment which will soon be inflicted upon that body… the fear level has just now exponentially increased too.

I am afraid, both literally and figuratively, that universities in America are not so much institutions of education and spaces for fostering brilliance and curiosity… but something a lot more troubling: prison systems with clock towers at the center. I don’t want to feel trapped anymore.

The current rhetoric and conversation desperately needs to change.